Tuesday, September 19, 2017

10 Thoughts on Complete Obedience to God

Sunday, I talked about the final straw for King Saul. His unwillingness to completely obey God demonstrated his devotion to himself and his own interests rather than to the sovereignty of God. As a result, he lost the kingdom. Here are 10 of my reflections from this important passage:


1. With God, there is always more to the story. He knows what we cannot know so He sometimes acts in ways we cannot understand.

2. Beware of the temptation to justify disobedience:

  • by painting an innacurate picture of incomplete disobedience
  • by blaming others
  • rationalizing your intentions
  • by promoting an external spirituality

3. Obedience is better than sacrifice. Disobedience nullifies sacrifice. You can never do enough good things to offset a heart not completely devoted to God.

4. Obedience flows from an embrace of what God says is and is not best for me. Disobedience is the result of pursuing what I believe to be best for myself.

5. God loves, but does not need our sacrifice and offering. However, God loves us and knows we need to be obedient and submissive.

6. Obedience is not a transaction. We do not obey to "get God on our side" so He will give us what we want. We obey because we recognize that He knows what is best and He has prescribed for us the best life possible.

7. Because God loves us, obedience to Him is the pathway to the blessed life.

8. Some behaviors are clearly prescribed for those who follow Christ. If you are not engaged in those behaviors, your worship and generosity is meaningless without obedience.

  • love God
  • love your neighbor
  • love one another
  • be gracious
  • be patient
  • be joyful
  • pray without ceasing
  • dwell on God's Word
  • meet together

9. Some behaviors are strictly prohibited for those who follow Christ. If you are engaged in those behaviors, your worship and generosity is meaningless without obedience.

  • sexual immorality
  • greed
  • anger
  • deceit
  • envy
  • hypocricy
  • slander

10. What does God want you to stop doing? What does God want you to start doing? Will you obey?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Recipients Of Grace Become Persons of Peace

We will never agree on everything.

We disagree about what restaurants are best, which regions of the country are most beautiful, how much coffee is too much (hint, it’s not), who is the most trustworthy politician and who is not, where the best sports teams play and far more.

We can agree on some things, though. Everyone can agree that cookies are yummy, puppies are cute and barbecue smells great.

We can probably also agree that grace and peace are good and desirable.

In Galatians 1 (as well as most of his other books), Paul prays for the Galatian believers to experience grace and peace. I love that he chooses this wish for them rather than success and prosperity.

Receiving grace and peace in life is far more necessary than receiving success and prosperity. In fact, we need grace and peace precisely because we are never promised success, ease or prosperity.

This world will always offer one more enticement for us to chase. From every angle, we are bombarded with the message that we can be more successful and more prosperous. If we are not careful we will drown in the message that we need more. We need more of everything. We need more more. Anxiety and Hopelessness are often the result of believing a lie that we have less than we need.

The message that we don’t have enough or that we need to accumulate more is the message of what Paul refers to as “this present evil age”. This was the message of Satan in the garden of Eden (he told Eve she didn’t have enough and that she needed the “more” of the forbidden tree). It is also the message which today steals our grace and peace.

According to Paul, Jesus offers us grace and peace by rescuing us from the evil of this present life. Here’s how that works:
  • Grace and peace both find their origin in the same place. It’s the same place as Paul received his apostleship (hint: not himself).
  • The critical factors in Paul’s identity are the death and resurrection of Christ and his adoption as a son of God.
  • Salvation has its origin in God’s will, not man’s plans, actions or mechanisms
  • We experience grace and peace when we embrace our identity under the Father and in Christ.
  • When we value the forever offered by Christ as better than this present age, we will experience the grace and peace He designed us to appreciate.
  • Those who have been given grace and peace must extend grace and peace. As we offer grace and peace to others, we'll discover it multiplied in our own lives.
Watch below for more...

(follow up with small group discussion questions if you want)

Truth Matters - A Study in Galatians 06-25-2017 from The Gathering on Vimeo.

Friday, May 19, 2017

What Am I Doing On Purpose?

I'm in the middle of moving Emma out of her dorm room today. The sun is shining and temperatures have already moved upward of 80. Our sweat levels are at a minimum though because God has graciously provided a steady wind to keep us cool. I am grateful for this small yet significant providential blessing. Sometimes we can take his provision for granted when it isn't the "big things".

As we drove down, Marianne and I discussed how hard it is to believe that our baby girl is half way through college. Life seems to move exponentially faster as we age.

I cannot help but think that every day and every moment is precious and loaded with potential IF we are willing to be intentional and proactive in our decisions and actions. I am reminded to constantly ask myself, "what am I doing on purpose today to bring glory to God?"


That's not a bad question to ask yourself a couple times each day. What are you doing on purpose today to bring glory to God?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Love is More Than A Feeling

1 Corinthians 13 is one of the world's most popular readings for weddings. These lines are perhaps the most poetic words Paul ever wrote. Here we find a simple and beautiful description of what love is and what love is not.

Love is NOT a Feeling


Feelings come and go. In a given day, any person may experience hundreds of various and conflicting feelings. Even couples who are deeply in love experience a wide range of feelings toward one another. Paul says love is lasting and eternal. On this matter, at least, Boston got it right. Love is "More Than A Feeling."

Love is Selfless


Reading through Paul's description of love, it becomes clear that true love thinks first of others and lastly of self. Jesus said as much in John 15 when He said the greatest love of all is the one who gives his life for the good of others. Paul described this type of love in his Philippians 2 hymn honoring the sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf. God's love, in John 3:16, was made known through the gift of His Son. True love is selfless, sacrificial, gracious and generous.

Love is a Choice


Paul writes that love "bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things." These four words refer to how we respond to others and what we assume about others. Our love for others cannot be dependent on how they treat us.  We cannot control the behavior of those around us, yet we can control how we respond to them and we can control what we assume about them.

We can choose  to bear all things and endure all things. This means we don't react with violence, hatred or revenge. We take the pain upon ourselves (as Jesus did for us) so they need not suffer.

We can always assume the best about others. Even when it seems they wish us ill, love chooses to believe the best and hope the best about others. (This doesn't mean we should put ourselves in positions to be abused. It does mean we choose to think the best of them, even as we protect ourselves)

Love is Action


Loving people are those who act loving. This chapter is full of applicable teaching and I've chosen three obvious actions on which we can focus to be more loving people.

Those who love others act more sacrificial, less selfish and more forgiving. If you want to implement more love into your life, choose one of these loving expressions and focus each day on how to align your life with it:
How will I be more sacrificial today?
How will I be less selfish today?
How will I be more forgiving today?

Monday, March 13, 2017

SENSIBLE WORSHIP: Leftovers from Romans 12:1-2


Last Sunday, I preached on Romans 12:1-2. During my preparation, I always create a personal paraphrase of the passage from which I'm teaching. Here was this week's paraphrase:

After everything I’ve said, now I must call you to action. Because of God’s mercy, give your whole self over to Him. Don’t hold anything back and don’t hold on to any old sins. This type of worship is the best way to respond to Him. You’ve been renewed, so let it change the way you think. You shouldn’t look like the world anymore, but your life should mirror God’s will. That’s the best way to live.


I never get to preach all the content I discover while preparing. Here are 10 Observations from Romans 12 I made while studying over the past few weeks.


  1. Paul’s appeal was based on the truths he had already shared. Primarily, Paul’s appeal is rooted in God’s mercy toward us. We must understand Romans 1-11 as an exposition of God’s mercy.
  2. Even Romans 1, which speaks of God’s wrath, is an explanation of God’s mercy. The better we understand our own depravity, the more clearly we see the depth of God’s mercy.
  3. Humility leads to gratitude, because in seeing ourselves with clear eyes we recognize the vast amount of God’s mercy toward us.
  4. A living sacrifice means we are giving away something that is costly. If it is not costly, it is not a sacrifice.
  5. A living sacrifice means we do it now. It is not okay to think, “I’ll give God my full attention in eternity, but for now I’m going to enjoy this world.” Waiting until you die means you’re offering a dead sacrifice.
  6. A holy sacrifice means we cannot offer God a sacrifice which we know is full of sin. As long as we are holding on to sin, we cannot offer our life to God. That is unacceptable.
  7. A top priority for every follower of Christ should be seeking to discover the thing for which they’ve been set aside. We’ve been set aside to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. We’ve been set aside to be aliens and strangers We’ve been set aside to be ambassadors of reconciliation.
  8. An acceptable sacrifice is the sacrifice of Abel which means our first and best. Offering God our live’s leftovers is not acceptable.
  9. If we offer ourselves as a living, holy and acceptable sacrifice; we will no longer look like the world. A Christian who “conforms” to the world is a hypocrite. He is behaving in conflict with his identity.
  10. In testing everything against God’s will, one can discern what should and should not be done. Discernment means when I face a tough decision, my first question should be “is this good, acceptable and perfect?”



One final thought... Our service is reasonable because:

  • Of what God has already done for us
  • Of what God is continuing to do
  • Such service is God’s will and His will is good, pleasing, and perfect
  • God is worthy of our best efforts
  • Only spiritual things will last

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

From Hope to Despair to Hope Again: Riding the Psalm 31 Roller-Coaster

I read the first verse of Psalm 31 and sighed deeply. I could tell this wasn’t going to meet me where I was today.
“In you O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame.”
That’s just not my experience in the past several years I thought. I tried to take refuge in God. I tried to do what was right. I tried to rely on Him to come through when the hour got darkest.
And He didn’t. I was, in my opinion, put to shame.
Verse 2 wasn’t much better.
“Incline your ear to me; rescue me speedily!”
I remember praying those words. I remember begging for a speedy rescue, and then comforting myself that God doesn’t always work on our timeline. He doesn’t always provide a rescue the way we think He should.
I didn’t want to read any further. I was content to roll around in the mud of my disappointing past. As often happens, the stream of memories flooded over me… the lies, the betrayals, the agonizing choices all felt as if they were my life today, not the fading past they truly are.
But I read on, because that’s what I do. And verse 5 bowled me over.
“Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.”
Recognize those words? Of course you do. They are Jesus’ words on the cross. He spoke them right before He died. But long before Jesus spoke them, David wrote them. David didn’t write them before he died, David wrote them as a living commitment. He was literally putting his life into God’s hands.
God could do whatever He wanted with David’s life… He could take away his kingdom, he could allow David’s son to rebel, he could take David’s life.
…and David was okay with that.
I read further.
“Because of all my adversaries I have become a reproach, especially to my neighbors, and an object of dread to my acquaintances…”
I’ve been there. I’ve had to answer uncomfortable questions about newspaper articles which weren’t really even about me. I’ve had employers refuse to hire me because of my name. I’ve had my neighbors and acquaintances looks suspiciously at me because of things they had heard.
“those who see me in the street flee from me.”
I thought of all those times in Meijer when people (who once served alongside me) hid from me.
“For I hear the whispering of many – terror on every side! – as they scheme together against me, as they plot to take my life.”
I remembered THAT email. The one which was sent to many of my friends. The one which revealed my true friends (a blessing in disguise). The pompous politician and his side-kick who schemed and slandered me then tried to bribe me…
Man, this Psalm 31 is depressing… but…
If I commit my spirit to God (give him full authority over my life), then I can’t really complain if He deems it appropriate to allow my adversaries to “win” and He allows my name to suffer and He allows me to be uncomfortable.
Everyone is happy to give up control of their life to God if that means He is going to “bless” them and make their life wonderful. It’s not as easy to give up control if He is going to sharpen us and form us through fire and tribulation.
Verse 14, after David’s airing of grievances, says:
“But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hand;”
Maybe God hasn’t provided the rescue I thought I needed or deserved. Maybe He still has something coming. Either way, I’m okay to trust Him. Either way, I can commit my life to Him.
If Jesus could commit His spirit to God, knowing it meant death…
If David could commit His spirit to God, knowing he might lose everything…
So can I, right?
Verse 24:
“Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD.”